Photo by Dwayne Renard Productions via Facebook
Dan Samuels is all over Baltimore’s music scene, and has been for some years now. It’s absolutely exhausting to really take in all the work he does both onstage and behind the scenes. You may have seen him drumming with popular local bands like J Pope and Funk Friday or Brooks Long or the Mad Dog No Good.
Or you may have heard him accompanying artists like The Baltimore Afrobeat Society, Eze Jackson, Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band, Jahiti, Axiom (Word Slave and Black Root), Rufus Roundtree and Da Bmore Brass Factory, or Bosley. He also books performers and produces shows. As he puts it, “I spend my working hours trying to connect artists I love with some decent gigs that will help pay bills.
That’s a lot of hats for one man with a lot of really beautiful hair to wear, but he manages it all, driven by a strong work ethic and a genuine love of music. “Music was all around me growing up,” he reminisces. “My parents were moved by a wide variety of music. I also grew up going to Jewish day school, and observing the Sabbath, which meant that I was singing ALL. THE. TIME. I also started learning piano when I was about 9 years old. My older brother started guitar at the same time. Truthfully, my brother’s passion for music fueled mine. The first time I played drums was when he and a group of friends were in our basement trying to learn “Yellow Submarine”. My brother taught me a basic ‘rock’ beat…long story short: I left crying when he told me I couldn’t keep a beat. I stuck to the piano for about five years after that before the next opportunity to play drums presented itself. Haven’t stopped since.”
Photo by Reuben Greene for Dubscience Photography
That love of music also led him to take on the business side of things. “The first show I presented was at Goucher College. A friend of mine, Brendan Killian, and I hosted five members of the Tuvan National Orchestra. The touring group was called “Khogzhumchu”. We presented this group of Tuvan Throat Singers in front of 200+ people. The event was a huge success. Then I started working on the production staff of the Silver Spring based non-profit called The National Council for the Traditional Arts. I spent five years with them coordinating free, multi-stage, large-scale events across the country. Evenings and free weekends were spent practicing and playing with J Pope, Brooks Long, and other artists around town. I was booking quite a bit of shows for both of those bands at the time, too. It was in those years that I started trying to bring in bands from out of town and present them in Baltimore alongside my own bands, too. When people ask me what I do I usually just sing a circus tune and gesticulate like I’m juggling.”
Try to keep up if you can. He first became acquainted with J. Pope in “2007 or 2008. Funk Friday had a monthly open mic at Goucher College. Word Slave and Black Root (as Axiom) brought J Pope through…we were jamming pretty hard when she (without asking anybody, I don’t think) walked up to the mic and started doing her thing. I think Jake had to hold my mouth closed with the neck of his guitar. As soon as she walked off stage I remember screaming to somebody in the audience, “DONT LET HER LEAVE!!” We were the backing band for her and Axiom at the 8 x 10 a few months later. J Pope and Funk Friday didn’t really start writing together until 2011. I called her up, told her how much I admired her style, told her how much I enjoyed performing with her, and asked if she was interested in starting to write full time together. We’re currently working on our debut album with producer Wendel Patrick.”
He became part of Brooks Long’s band in “late 2010 or early 2011. I was playing in Axiom’s band at the time, alongside Brooks’s bass player, Ian “Spaceman” Trusheim. I saw Brooks do an extremely moving acoustic set at Terra Cafe (25th and St Paul – battered fish – do it). A few weeks later I saw The Mad Dog No Good perform at HonFest. A few weeks after that Ian recommended me for the newly opened spot in Brooks’s band… and the rest is history!!”
He began working with Bumper Jacksons because “Bumper Jacksons’ studio engineer, Charlie Pilzer worked as an engineer at the festivals I was coordinating from 2010-2015. He threw my name in the hat when he heard they were looking for a new percussionist. They presented me with about 80 gig offers all at once… and I took ’em. They’re good people and they play some fun music that is different than everything else I am involved in. I’ve toured pretty far with them and have learned a lot about the life of a touring musician in my 18 months playing with them.”
Did you get all that? That’s one, two, three bands.
So the next time you are checking out a local band, check to see who is on drums…it just might be Dan Samuels!